Déjà Vu is a common intuitive experience that has happened to many of us at one time or another. The expression is derived from the French, meaning "already seen." When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory of a place we have already been, a person we have already seen, or an act we have already done. I chose to take readers on Liberia’s Déjà Vu Memory Lane. Trust me, this trip will mean a lot to you, especially those who have forgotten the past.
Like most Liberians who pray for peace, I too, support a peaceful, FAIR and transparent elections and violence free Liberia. Therefore, you are invited to make this trip with me for us to unite to make Liberia what it ought to be for ALL of us, instead of the over-used – Congor and Country divide.
History was repeated in Liberia when President Sirleaf and the former American Ambassador in 2015, equated the Liberian people’s legitimate expression of dissatisfaction with their elected officials and government as ‘Mob Violence’. How soon people forget! It appears that most Liberians have short memory. Those with short memory refused to learn a lesson or two from history. And if there is any such thing as a Liberian mindset, it is complicated, confused and difficult to understand; even among those who considered themselves "civilized or educated people." One does not have to be a nuclear scientist to distinguish between a ROGUE and those who serve your best interests.
It is those with short memories who are blaming the poor exploited citizens; they are the ones who suffered from the dichotomous relationship between words and action. In a sense, they are full of wasted words and no action in seeking the truth. This kind of behavior makes it difficult for those of us who want to see genuine change take place in our native land.
At one time I said, if the October 10, 2017 Presidential and Legislature’s elections were not conducted free and fair, the country will be heading in the wrong direction; because the days of questioning citizens’ rights to challenge their elected officials to behave according to the laws of the land as unpatriotic is over. In fact today, there are Liberians who are bent on resuscitating Liberia’s ugly past – those days when resolutions were written to show support for the President and elected officials as the order of the day; while an accused person was pronounced guilty before his/her case made it to court. They need to know that this is a new day; the practice of the past will not be tolerated by the Liberian people. Those days when speaking loudly against existing evils were seeing as ‘making trouble’ should be gone forever; but, the way things are happening in the country, Liberians are beginning to fall back into the practice that brought about our present condition. In other words, our memories are failing us? Why can’t we learn from our recent history?
This article intents to refute: “Equating the Liberian people’s legitimate protest to Mob Violence”. In 2015, President Sirleaf and her benefactors described the Liberian people’s protest of the abuse they suffered at the hands of their leaders who misused their wealth for the benefit of a select few as ‘Mob Violence’, when they should have accurately described government officials’ violation of their legitimate (human and constitutional) rights.
First, let’s see what the Liberian Constitution says about the “General Principles of National Policy” and “Liberian Citizens’ Rights”.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF NATIONAL POLICY
The principles contained in this Chapter shall be fundamental in the governance of the Republic and shall serve as guidelines in the formulation of legislative, executive and administrative directives, policy-making and their execution…
The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.”
The key here is, “To advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.”
What happens if the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development are not pursued? The Constitution addressed it in Chapter III, Articles 17 & 18:
All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.
All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.
The Sirleaf Administration failed miserably to adhere to these provisions. And based on these constitutional provisions, citizens’ rights to assemble and protest cannot be equated to “Mob violence”.
For more in-depth clarification and understanding, let’s look at the definitions of protest and rebellion that the government and their supporters described as “Mob Violence.”
· Resistance or Protest – group action in opposition to those in power;
· Rebellion – refusal to accept some authority or code or convention or organized opposition to authority; a conflict in which one faction tries to wrest control from others.
· Insurrection, revolt, uprising, rising conflict, struggle, battle – an open clash between two opposing groups (or individuals); or an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict
Violations of the human and constitutional rights of citizens by their government, and the leaders’ failures to address their grievances have the propensity to cause these serious conflicts. Ella Wheeler Wilcox provides a good example. It reads:
To sin by silence, when we should protest makes cowards out of men. The human race has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised against injustice, ignorance and lust, the inquisition yet would serve the law, and guillotines decide our least disputes. The few who dare must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many…
The celebrated American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox clearly states our problem in her poem titled: PROTEST.
Now let’s look at the term “mob violence”. Mob violence is the euphemism coined by President Sirleaf for any form of protest, whether by opposition political parties, student demonstrators, or the vigilante justice Liberians witnessed at the Redlight District in Paynesville and Nimba County. “If we aren’t mistaken, the closest incidents to the term “mob violence” were the ones that occurred in Paynesville, Sanniquelle and Ganta. Even those were spontaneous reactions to traumatic events”, says Sylvester Moses.
Moses went on to say, “…President Sirleaf implied in her November speech, all street group – dissent for ‘real or imagined socio – economic wrongs’ are crimes against the state. Imagine such rationale coming from a warmonger who in 1990 told BBC the following: ‘We will flatten Monrovia, and burn it down to the ground. When we take over we will rebuild it’. (Courtesy of BBC). Truth be told, it is her failure to rebuild Liberia after ‘flattening’ it, plus her blatant unwillingness to ensure equality of opportunities that are the root causes of the palpable anger hovering above the nation. And she knows what must be done to make things right for concord and peace.”
I am in agreed with Moses’ observation. Yet, Ambassador Malac at the time failed to acknowledge the government’s failure to provide employment, and vast majority of the people were going to bed hungry; dying of preventable disease, while the President and the lawmakers were preoccupied with increasing their salaries and pension package for they and their families.
However, there were those who applauded Ambassador Malac’s statement: “Mob violence continues to be a concern to us… It needs personal Community Responsibility that the citizens have role to play in ensuring security and stability”.
Was Ambassador Malac for real? Which citizens were she referring to; those who could not afford a cup of rice in the midst of wealth? It was disappointing for the Ambassador to talk about citizens’ role in “ensuring security and stability” without including the duty of the government to be responsive to their grievances.
However, during the 2013 General Assembly meeting in New York at which the Movement of Liberians Against Corruption (MOLAC), and Concerned Liberians Against Corruption & Impunity (CLACI) protested against the irresponsiveness of President Sirleaf to the suffering of the vast majority – UN Secretary General Moon saw the issues raised by the protestors as a ‘two-way street’, meaning the government has a major responsibility.
Yet, the Sirleaf administration failed to lead by example; fight poverty, mass literacy, restrain corruption, show integrity, accelerate electrification, ensure safe drinking water, and improve health delivery system. These are policies that assure peace, reconciliation, and unity. Anything short of this, caused citizens to protest!
Readers of this article may want to know why I blamed President Sirleaf and not President Weah. The answer is simple! I am not excluding Weah, but if truth is to be told, the so-called Harvard Economist (Public Administration graduate) President Sirleaf is the one who created the MESS President Weah inherited. Yet, most Liberians failed to see the MESS she got us in! There are lots of Liberians still praising her for doing nothing. Perhaps, they benefitted from the 12 years of CORRUPTIONS under her watch! If you are a leader, you must be concern about the people you lead, not your family, relatives and associates like Ellen did with the Liberian people’s wealth and resources. Yet, she calls herself Christian without living the Christian principles! This brings to mind Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.
In the sermon, Jesus said to his followers:
"You are the salt of the earth." By this statement, Jesus implied that their preaching about God's Kingdom would have a potentially preserving and life-saving influence on their hearers. Mohandas K. Gandhi made reference to the Sermon on the Mount when he told the British viceroy of India that: "When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems, not only of our countries but those of the whole world." What a profound statement!
In other words, it is left to us to practice what we preach and the world will be a better place to live. However, there cannot be one standard of justice established for those who commit crimes against humanity in Europe, America and another standard for those in developing countries, particularly, Africa, and expect to eradicate moral and spiritual decay in the world. The salt metaphor is used to dramatize the seriousness of the issue facing mankind, today. For example, salt in ancient times was a precious commodity that was used as a medium of exchange. Salt was second only to gold in value, in ancient China. Even today, healing and antiseptic properties are attributed to salt, and it is used as a flavor enhancer as well as a preservative all over the world.
In view of the many desirable qualities and uses of salt, Jesus used it to emphasize his concern for the salvation of mankind; that is the same reason I am using it here. The salt metaphor represents freedom from corruption or decay. In other words, "when salt loses its taste" it means that nations as well as individuals have become blind to the practices of morality. Those who are responsible for all of these problems, refused to see the root causes of crimes against humanity for which a collective resolution is needed. Collective responses require us to stand up and fight for what is right. Instead, many nations within the global community engaged in a "strange kind of logic" or exercise "blame shifting". This aged-old excuse has led to atrocities in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Middle East just to name a few.
The reason those of us who challenge the Liberian government to do the right thing or obey its own laws are ridiculed is that lots of our elected officials resort to playing it safe – defend the government’s corrupt practices to the point of violating the Constitution they affirmed to uphold and protect.
The Liberian Constitution is clear about how every citizen should be protected and defended. It is shot-sightedness not to protect the people’s rights to free speech and peaceful protest. The late legendary radio and television sports journalist G. Henry Andrews, who also served as Minister of Information, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, admonished us that:
“…Never again should we allow a president to maintain four to five security forces, stock them with his people, and mold them into robots that do his every wish and command, good or bad, right or wrong, legal or illegal. Liberians must learn and live by the principle that the greatest right in the world is the right to be left alone as long as you don’t break the law. This is followed closely by the right to freely and fairly choose those who will govern you. The third great right is the right to hold your leaders accountable for their actions. In those rights lies the essence of democracy, no matter of what kind”. (From CRY, LIBERIA, CRY)
The people’s rights to free speech and peaceful protest are what President George Manneh Weah; the new kid on the block is violating WITH IMPUNITY.
From time in memory, history has proven this point over and over that – no matter what the power that be attempt to do regarding truth – truth being a universal principle, will remain the same today and tomorrow. Yet, there are always individuals who by choice or influence will tamper with the truth to advance their own interests or for those they are loyal to. They need to know that there is nothing abstract about the truth, because truth is like night follows day.
To be frank, Liberia does not require us to be perfect, rather to be honest with each other. As imperfect humans living in these perilous times, we are not immune to the wind of adversity. But we have the ability to reverse the course of the wind. To do so, we must acknowledge that there is something morally wrong with us as a people. Having admitted our general fault, we may set-up the means by which our fault can be addressed, and incorporate solution(s) with the aim and commitment to never again compromise our principles (national goals and objectives) for political favors or offices.
Imagine, just under sixteen months, President George M. Weah is gradually validating the claim made by some of his critics that he doesn’t have a thick skin to tolerate dissenting opinions against him and his regime. Moreover, I am led to believe that since violence and terror propelled victors to participate in interim governments; these vices could also serve as encouragement for them to rule the citizens as they pleased. That is my fear! Since these vices worked so well during the civil crisis, they are likely to work in "peace time" too – to return the victims (the Liberian people) to their usual places (internally and externally displaced refugee camps). My gut feelings tell me, Liberia will be heading in this direction if we do not get our acts together.
As a final point, I hope the trip we took together on Liberia’s Déjà Vu Memory Lane, motivated you to act in the best interests of Liberia’s struggling masses, which the country’s past and present leaders took for granted to continue leading the Liberian people in the wrong directions. This failed practice led Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh to conclude: “…Without the Rule of Law, Liberia is placed under the Rule of Outlaw, which leads to chaos and violence…So, let me call upon the HONEST People of Liberia to stand up and work together to let the Rule of Law prevails…”
Gwei feh kpeh!
The time of the people has come!
About The Author: Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr. is a life-long activist (*troublemaker) in researching the true history of Africa, the people of African origin in the Diaspora. He had dedicated his teaching of African culture; spent over 50 years advocating for human, civil, and constitutional rights of all people, especially the Liberian masses. He is a Griot, poet, journalist, and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. To keep TEH’S legacy and memory ALIVE, in 2012, Mr. Nyanseor joined other writers and became BLOJU TARTY TEH’S SCHOLAR. BLOJU TEH is the late Liberian Literary Genius, Writer, Storyteller, Human, Civil and Constitutional Rights Activist. Nyanseor can be reached at: [email protected]